Is the Loneliness Epidemic Rooted in Nihilism?
Posted on 05 June 2023, 8:13
“Loneliness now a public epidemic, top doctor says.” So reads the headline of an Associated Press article by Amanda Seitz appearing in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on May 3, 2023. According to Dr. Vivek Murthy, the United States surgeon general, this widespread loneliness is said to be as deadly as smoking 15 cigarettes daily, while costing the health industry billions of dollars annually.
Murthy claims that about half the adults in the United States say they’ve experienced loneliness. However, there is no explanation as to how loneliness is defined or measured. I would have guessed that nearly everyone has experienced it to some degree, at one time or another, even if just homesickness or a spouse being away on a business trip. The point at which it becomes “deadly” is not given.
“Research shows that Americans, who have become less engaged with worship houses, community organizations, and even their own family members in recent decades, have steadily reported an increase in feelings of loneliness,” Seitz reports, adding that the crisis deeply worsened with COVID-19 and that it is hitting young people, ages 15-24, especially hard.
As I see it, it is all part of what psychiatrist Viktor Frankl referred to in his 1959 classic, Man’s Search for Meaning, as an “existential vacuum” – a widespread phenomenon of the twentieth century which, Frankl stated, manifests itself mainly in a state of boredom, which has its roots in emptiness and meaninglessness. “In actual fact, boredom is now causing, and certainly bringing to psychiatrists, more problems to solve than distress,” Frankl, who survived Nazi death camps, continues. “And these problems are growing increasingly crucial, for progressive automation will probably lead to an enormous increase in the leisure hours available to the average worker. The pity of it is that many of these will not know what to do with all their newly acquired free time.”
Those words were written more than 60 years before the COVID epidemic hit, but I’m old enough to look back and see the existential vacuum in its early stages with the dawn of television during the 1950s. Before television, people sat on their porches, talked with their neighbors, attended various social functions, met with friends and relatives in their homes, and otherwise mingled. Church activities were a significant part of that mingling. (That was before they were degraded by a cynical journalists to “worship houses,” perhaps the intent being to put them in the same category as whorehouses.)
While Murthy blames technology and social media for the loneliness, Frankl went much deeper, calling the existential vacuum a mass neurosis which might otherwise be described as a private and personal form of nihilism, a condition in which the person can find no meaning in life. Being a scientist and recognizing that science had more or less impeached religion by that time, and that most people can’t separate religious teachings from existential conclusions, Frankl was cautious in suggesting a “larger life,” one in which the lessons of suffering in this life open our eyes to the bigger picture, but he gave the larger life as an example of finding meaning in this life and concluded that the search for meaning in life, in itself, is the key to overcoming the neurosis.
Growing up during the 1940s, I knew the names of every neighbor on the block, which included about 20 homes. It was not unusual for my mother to be gardening in the front yard and talking with one of them. We had frequent visitors from family members and family picnics several times a year. All that changed with television as people shuttered themselves in their homes and children no longer went out to play with neighboring kids, preferring Howdy Doody and Captain Crunch. Gradually, over the next few decades, people got to unknow their neighbors, opting to stay behind shut doors while glued to their TV sets rather than chat face-to-face with neighbors or attend social functions. Sunday football replaced church services for many men. Madison Avenue and Hollywood continually educated the masses with the religion of materialism, which quickly extended to hedonism. The vacuum was clearly sucking in millions of people well before COVID, but the epidemic brought it all to a head.
In his 1969 book, The Immortalist, humanist philosopher Alan Harrington expressed it this way: “An unfortunate awareness has overtaken our species. Masses of men and women everywhere no longer believe that they have even the slightest chance of living beyond the grave. The unbeliever pronounces a death sentence on himself. For millions this can be not merely disconcerting but a disastrous perception.”
As Harrington, himself an atheist and nihilist, viewed it, when people are deprived of rebirth vision, they “suffer recurring spells of detachment, with either violence or apathy to follow.” Harrington saw mass-atheism as responsible for most, if not all, of society’s ills, including misplaced sexual energy. “Orgies, husband and wife swaps, and the like, more popular than ever among groups of quite ordinary people, represent a mass assault on the mortal barrier,” he opined.
“Atheism without hope has fathered this viciously creative effort – to try divine privilege on for size by reducing or destroying another for no particular reason,” Harrington continued. “The mild twin, apathy, grows from a deliberate reduction of consciousness which doesn’t care to deal with the unknown any more. One finds solace and safety in repetition, hours of torpor in front of a television set, and the like. The much-despised reflexes of conformity still prevalent in middle-class American life are part of this American withdrawal.”
With television, the pursuit of happiness was replaced with the pursuit of fun, which called for a loosening of moral values. Seemingly innocent television programs subtly promoted the new morality, one focused on sex. Fake wrestling represented the public’s indifference to separating reality from unreality, and it led to egomaniac clown acts in the boxing rings, and that quickly spread to other sports. Appreciative tips of the cap on the athletic field turned to shaking the fist, punching the sky, beckoning to the crowd for applause, idiotic end-zone dances, “take-that” slam dunks, and other haughty displays of individuality and hubris. The media couldn’t get enough of it, celebrating the most pompous athletes as the greatest. Television seemed to bottom out with the Jerry Springer Show during the 1990s – people screaming vulgarities and attacking each other as the audience laughed, unsure and uncaring as to how real the negative emotions were. If they were real, all the better the entertainment.
The loneliness problem is apparent to me whenever I see homeless people, which is daily, or visit someone at a retirement home, or whatever name is given to them. I had a somewhat rude awakening to the problem about 25 years ago when I visited an old friend at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, D.C. I expected to see many old veterans huddled around another one. laughing as they shared war stories or other experiences from an adventuresome past, but such was not the case. As with all other retirement homes where I have visited elderly relatives or friends, they sat around a TV set in the lobby, their heads drooping in wearisome silence or they remained in their rooms and watched television there. My friend, a very outgoing person, didn’t even know the name of the veteran occupying the room next to his. At lunch in the cafeteria, nearly all sat at separate tables, as if they didn’t know each other. To some extent, the isolation in retirement homes suggests that distance is not the primary cause of the loneliness problem.
“There’s really no substitute for in-person interaction,” Murthy is quoted. Given the reluctance of public officials to discuss religious matters while not fully grasping the difference between religious and existential issues, I doubt that Murthy has gone into the subject matter as deeply as Frankl and Harrington did. I suspect Murthy sees the decline of organized religion and the closing of churches as a factor, but I also doubt that he has really concerned himself with the existential aspects – the loss of meaning and the all-absorbing materialistic mentality that is accompanying the exodus from organized religion. Even if he has made the connection, it seems beyond government control.
Even though I am often critical of mainstream religion at this blog, I lament the fact that churches are losing members everywhere as the younger generation abandons them, those same younger people cited by Murthy suffering the most from loneliness, i.e., the 15-24 age group. Some belief, some faith has to be better than a nihilistic outlook.
As Harrington analyzed it, men and women of the past were able to hold on to their peace of mind by repetitive prayer, chants, rhythms and psalms set to music. “But repetition, beauty and music no longer possess the force to distract us from meaninglessness,” he concluded. I wonder how Harrington would have analyzed what is called music today.
He goes on to say that failure to move with the death-rebirth rhythm makes us feel out of sorts, despondent, and vicious. “A very few individuals, most having a remarkable capacity for self-deception, manage not to fear the end,” Harrington continued, no doubt including those of us who have accepted the evidence for an afterlife without input from organized religions as among the deceived. “The rest who claim that they are not afraid are either lying or keeping so busy that, blocked by bustling trivialities, thoughts of death rarely penetrate their reveries. But fear waits behind the door nevertheless. And the day they peer out and discover nothingness, the result can be catastrophic.”
The bottom line here is that the loneliness problem goes much deeper than government officials care to dig and that there does not appear to be an immediate fix for the problem. It’s going to take decades for the upward swing to take place, unless some catastrophic event provides a more hasty return to the search for meaning in life.
Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.
Next blog post: June 19
I’ve been there and know what you are saying. Thanks for sharing.
Michael Tymn, Mon 3 Jul, 17:38
Loneliness is usually defined as wanting more social connection than you have. But it’s often accompanied by a sense that it’s permanent (rather than a temporary condition) and a sense that there is something wrong with you because of it (“I don’t have many friends; there must be something wrong with me”)—which make it much more painful.
I am a big introvert. I don’t feel a need for a lot of social connection. As a result, I don’t get lonely very often, even though I spend most of my time alone (unless you count my dog ... which I do).
My spiritual beliefs alienate me from most people. I live in the Bible Belt. I’m not Christian and don’t want to be, although 75% of the people here are Christians. I attend a church discussion group, though. I do it for intellectual stimulation and social connection, not for spiritual nourishment. I don’t attend mass, but I like the discussion group. I’m an outlier there, so I need to behave myself (I’m not interested in wrecking anyone’s faith). But I need some way to connect to the community, and church is the main way people do it down here. When in Rome…. If there was a spiritualist group, I’d attend that, but the chances of that happening are about the same as Jesus returning next Thursday.
One more thought. Loneliness isn’t about being alone; it’s about not feeling connected. I can feel connected even when I’m alone—connected to nature, connected to animals, connected to spirit (when I can get there), connected to my deeper self even. Anthony Storr, psychiatrist and author of Solitude, said that connection is born in solitude.
Ed Anderson, Mon 3 Jul, 16:41
Bruce, thanks for the additional comments. As I recall, Mrs. Willet was much like Pearl Curran, the medium for Patience Worth, who went from the ouija board, to automatic writing with pencil, to automatic writing with a typewriter, and then to more vocal communication. Amos might correct me on that.
Yes, what the tourists see and what the residents see are quite different. When I watch various programs filmed in Hawaii, I wonder why it is more colorful and vibrant on TV than what I see in person. That is not to suggest that it is not a beautiful place, but it does seem more colorful and vibrant on TV, at least to me. I think that can be said for just about any place.
On to my next blog…
Michael Tymn, Mon 19 Jun, 08:08
Michael,Amos Stafford et alia,
I am looking very closely at Mrs Willett scripts (more from the viewpoint of the techniques used for communication rather than content). Mediums want to see the various techniques used by others. (Mrs Willett used a telepathy type technique which was distinct from automatic writing.)
Looking for articles on Mrs Willett, I came across Stafford’s excellent article Psychical Research and the Question of Ultimate Reality and Meaning ://www.utpjournals.press/doi/pdf/10.3138/uram.7.1.21
This article made me realise that the excellent knowledge of others (Michael Amos and Stafford as well as others) on obscure after life topics is like a book club which overcomes any intellectual loneliness. We all read the same material and have different points of view. Healthy discussions.
I also did my research in to the name Hawaiian Pizza and found it came from the brand of pineapple that was used. https://time.com/4814056/hawaiian-pizza-pineapple-sam-panopoulos-death/
I also have fond memories of the hula dancers during my visits and I was shocked to find out that the good people of Hawaii do not perform this daily for their local entertainment.
As with Mrs Willett scripts and the impressions you receive as a tourist the realities might be different to those of a local. The argument that the communication is tainted by the medium is actively debated. (Mrs Willett used the term Direct Impressions to signify her technique.) Impressions of the validity of the content therefore vary between people within this group which is good for active discussions.
Bruce Williams, Mon 19 Jun, 06:39
Thanks to all,
Thanks for the reply. I think we have a different concept of the group soul. I provided my understanding of it in a past blog, but I can’t identify it in the archives right now. I will look further for it and give the link. It is covered in Chapter 16 of my last book, “No One Really Dies.” As Amos states, it is probably a matter of semantics.
As for Hawaiian Pizzas, I suspect that it is a myth. I’m not sure there are any pineapple fields left here, maybe a couple of small ones, but I have not seen one in more than 20 years. Dole and Delmonte pulled out years ago. My wife does buy a pineapple once or twice a year, but they are probably imported from Brazil and I suspect we pay twice as much for them as people in California. Nor am I aware of any bananas being produced here, as some people think. I just bought a few today. The cost was 45 cents per banana and they probably came from Brazil. I haven’t seen a hula dancer in 30 years, but I’m sure you can see them at the tourist shows.
Michael Tymn, Sat 17 Jun, 06:05
Serious answer: Myers - “When I was on earth, I belonged to a group-soul, but its branches and the spirit - which might be compared to the roots - were in the invisible,” “Now, if you would understand psychic evolution, this group-soul must be studied and understood.
From a medium’s point of view of life there are these roots in spirit which are ever present.
Michael’s answer surprised me as I see the direct link for loneliness and the group soul in the diagram below:
LHS Loneliness (Nilism)———-Medium viewpoint (invisible roots)———-Solitude RHS
Agree with Michael Bruce (Myers group soul) Aim for people
Loneliness is inner emptiness, whereas solitude is inner plenty. “I am alone but not lonely.”
The group soul thinking acts to move from the left (loneliness) to the right (solitude).
I dislike the bible quotes but this one matches the medium’s point of view.
“The hour is coming when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone.
Yet I am not alone for the Father is with me.” Matthew 16v32, ESV
(On the not serious side note and seeing where ChatGPT is heading there is a Jesus AI which answers various questions. This link below shows the reaction that Australians face when overseas. We order a Hawaiian Pizza (ham cheese and pineapple). Pineapple on pizza! Surely everyone is the same. I have often thought What do people in Hawaii order for such a pizza?
Amos, manners first so thank you for NDE links (I liked the lightening strike one). I like that you hit the holy grail for mediums, that is connecting with a past medium.
One of the mediums the SPR used to communicate from spirit was Mrs Willett. Mrs Willett then came through Geraldine Cummins – medium to medium (Swan on the Black Sea) with members of the SPR. I follow the SPR thinking as the group is consistent. Much the way you follow Patience I follow the SPR researchers. In Past Years the autobiography of Sir Oliver Lodge page 275 Lodge says that the first aim of the SPR was “to investigate the obscure human faculties, and telepathy was the one faculty”… Myers saw that if the mind to mind connection continued after death then proof of survival. Mrs Piper provided information which was not able to obtained by telepathy.
Have to go as Schrödinger’s cat needs to be fed (good to see Bill has a soft side)
Bruce Williams, Sat 17 Jun, 02:47
I just watched the recent TV interview with Dr. Steven Greer, who heads up the Center for the Study of Extraterrestrials (CSET). Greer is a former emergency room physician who retired from his job and devoted some 30 years or more to the “Disclosure Project,” attempting to awaken the world to the presence of friendly alien visitors to earth and the need to eliminate the armament of space, which is affecting the aliens and scaring them off. He stresses that they are here to help us, but that such armament of space by the U.S. and other countries has prevented them from getting through to us and helping us.
There are so many parallels between the Ufology disclosure project and the Survival disclosure project, if it can be so called, that it might take a book to cover them all. Greer emerges as the chief advocate or promoter of the Disclosure Project, much as Dr. Gary Schwartz was and perhaps still is for the spirit world. Greer, who claims to be in touch with some aliens, is considered a “fruitcake” by the skeptical world and while many people in high positions believe in what he has to say they are unable to penetrate the debunking and highly skeptical mindset opposed to alien life. The mainstream media subscribes to the resistance mindset, treating the subject as a big joke, thereby further discouraging Greer’s attempts to enlighten the world.
The question is often asked why Greer, if he is in contact with them, can’t them to land on the White House lawn or at some scientific convention to give solid evidence of their existence and intentions. I’m not sure, but I infer from it all that the aliens have as much difficulty getting through to humans as discarnates do. As I understand Greer, the conditions have to be just right and there has to be harmony and acceptance on our side. Moreover, just because Greer can see and communicate with them does not mean others will see or hear them. I suspect that if one landed on the White House lawn, it would immediately be destroyed.
We have received alleged spirit messages saying that doubt in part of the divine plan, that absolute certainty would frustrate that plan by affecting our free-will choices and reducing the challenges we are here to learn from. I wonder if the same reasoning applies to alien life, i.e., the technology they might offer would result in both economic and social chaos. That seems to be our primary problem now. The current technology has run ahead of our ability to morally, psychologically and socially adjust to it. It would seemingly be disastrous if aliens were to suddenly provide us with technology that otherwise might take us another 100 years to discover. We are not ready for it.
Michael Tymn, Fri 16 Jun, 22:05
We have endless descriptions of the afterlife.
If you review Seth’s words in just two of his books, _Seth Speaks_ and _The Nature of Personal Reality_, you’ll find similarities to that which Frederic Myers allegedly said through the services of a medium. You can also read of the “Summerland” of Andrew Jackson Davis, his various “spheres,” and so on, if you wish, among no end of other explanations and descriptions.
I’m partial to the Seth material, with Seth’s “focus personalities,” inner self, souls, oversouls, and entities, probable realities, unique space continua created by each living being (humans “aligning” their respective continua via unconscious telepathy) etc., etc., but no channeled information can ever be completely distortion free.
Seth also pointed out that “you are as dead now as ever you will be.”
This is something of a no brainer—if part of you or your mind survives the death of your body, then it exists now, while you still live. Why not learn to access it?
Here we soon run into the difference between using intellect to read of possibilities—a second hand experience—and immediate, direct experience—but of a subjective nature and typically very difficult to validate (or “prove”) to anyone else’s satisfaction.
I’m not convinced loneliness is necessarily connected with beliefs regarding the afterlife, religious or otherwise, or a lack of any such beliefs.
But Seth readers and others are familiar with “there is no separation,” referring to the inherent inner connectivity of everything and everyone. How could this not be the case with an overall gestalt being referred to as “The All” or “All That Is”?
In other words, the seemingly separate self that might certainly heighten an experience of loneliness should someone imagine that is all they are—a physical being delineated by his or her skin—is part of an illusion, living in what Seth referred to as “camouflage reality” or “Framework 1.”
Mass beliefs are always changing, while every so often some major change in mass belief arrives. The arrival of what became Christianity and its gradual coalescence into a dogma infused power structure built on myth is a case in point.
I have no difficulty imagining a world in which beliefs in an afterlife and All That Is are rampant, complete with methods for directly “connecting” or ascertaining by direct experience that validity of such beliefs.
Of course the present world is not like this—but, possibly, we’re simply going through an extended transition from one in which religions have become worn out and materialism reigns to something more promising, in which the loneliness of an imagined stark separation between each person and all others (and nature, creatures, the dead, etc.) dissipates.
Bill Ingle, Fri 16 Jun, 16:27
I agree that pets can fill much, sometimes all, of the loneliness gap. I’ve known many people living alone who depend on their animals for companionship.
I’m sorry, but I don’t see the connection between loneliness and the group soul. If there is a connection, it is a very indirect one.
Michael Tymn, Thu 15 Jun, 20:11
I often think that discussions about reincarnation often come down to a matter of semantics. And, Myers’ comments about reincarnation are no exception. Myers seems to pontificate from on high straining to maintain his authoritative position as a knowledgeable person of all things relating to spirits and the afterlife. I would expect nothing less of him but just because Myers speaks from the afterlife—-and he admits this—-does not mean that he understands it any more from that perspective than he did when he was in a physical body. And, he just doesn’t have the language to fully explain the process of reincarnation. He makes “no claim to being infallible”, an easy out for him.
And to complicate the communication one does not know to what extent Geraldine Cummins colored the dictation from Myers with her own belief system. I read “The Road to Immortality” with some dubious restraint thinking “maybe so and maybe not!” I do not regard it with the same sense of veracity as I do of Cummins’ “Swan on a Black Sea” in which she received dictation from Mrs. Willett (Mrs. Coombe-Tennant)
I am aware of several if not many descriptions of the afterlife, some of which may be congruent with Myers’ descriptions but some of them are quite different, e.g., Chico Xavier’s “Nosso Lar”. Who is to say which ones are accurate and which ones are not. I think that they all may be true in part as each consciousness experiences its own heaven according to its own beliefs. Myers, in my opinion, has no special authority in the afterlife to require one to prefer his explanations over any others.
No where in that quote from Cummins’ book, “The Road to Immortality” reportedly dictated by Frederic Myers does one encounter any comment about consciousness. As Myers acknowledges, he “shall not live again on earth.” He—-Frederic W.H. Myers—-of course is absolutely correct. That body, that personality will not live on earth again but the consciousness that inhabited that body will live again on Earth or somewhere else as may be necessary for evolution of his group soul in its quest to return to its source. That personality of “Frederic Myers” will join the group soul as a part of that larger consciousness but the consciousness that developed and inhabited the Myers personality will live again as another personality in another physical form. A new personality will develop under the direction of the erstwhile “Frederic Myers’ consciousness. That new personality may develop according to patterns or ‘karma’ woven by one or more personalities of that consciousness in the group soul or that consciousness may experience a new personality unencumbered by patterns of past lives as a respite from karma for a while as is necessary for soul growth.
As I read Myers through Cummins I think he is trying to say to some extent what I have said above but due to the problems of language and influences of his past Victorian life and vocation, one has to look for deeper and wider meaning in what Myers is not able to fully explain. – AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Thu 15 Jun, 18:08
I know that you are across the group soul thinking and I was wondering how loneliness might fit in to this thinking.
Geraldine Cummins had the group soul in The Road to Immortality and I found a good quote for our discussions:
Myers went into great detail about the subject. “When I was on earth, I belonged to a group-soul, but its branches and the spirit - which might be compared to the roots - were in the invisible,” “Now, if you would understand psychic evolution, this group-soul must be studied and understood.
For instance, it explains many of the difficulties that people will assure you can be removed only by the doctrine of reincarnation. You may think my statement frivolous, but the fact that we do appear on earth to be paying for the sins of another life is, in a certain sense, true. It is our life and yet not our life. In other words, a soul belonging to the group of which I am a part lived that previous life which built up for me the framework of my earthly life, lived it before I had passed through the gates of birth.”
Myers further explained that the group soul might contain twenty souls, a hundred, or a thousand. “The number varies,” he said. “It is different for each man. But what the Buddhist would call the karma I had brought with me from a previous life is, very frequently, not that of my life, but of the life of a soul that preceded me by many years on earth and left for me the pattern which made my life. I, too, wove a pattern for another of my group during my earthly career.
Myers added that the Buddhist’s idea of rebirth, of man’s continual return to earth, is but a half-truth. “And often half a truth is more inaccurate than an entire misstatement. I shall not live again on earth, but a new soul, one who will join our group, will shortly enter into the pattern or karma I have woven for him on earth.”
Bruce Williams, Thu 15 Jun, 01:28
Myers likened the soul to a spectator caught within the spell of some drama outside of its actual life, perceiving all the consequences of acts, moods, and thoughts of a kindred soul. He further pointed out that there are an infinite variety of conditions in the invisible world and that he made no claim to being infallible. He called it a “general rule” based on what he had learned and experienced on the Other Side.
PS I wouldn’t try any downloads from this site
You’ve probably heard of Schrödinger’s cat and you may have heard of Schindler’s List.
I inherited Schindler’s cat, Sebastian, last fall.
My friend Stefan Schindler, mystic, peace activist, and philosophy professor died last summer. Years ago, after he lost his job and was a bit at sea, I suggested he get a cat, and he did.
After I found out about his death, I inquired about Sebastian. Stefan had little time left after visiting a doctor and handed Sebastian to a neighbor on his way to a hospice. When I reached the neighbor, he was about to take Sebastian to a shelter, saying he wasn’t a “cat person.”
As my last cat died in 2021, I agree to take him, soon discovering he was traumatized and half starved (the neighbor hadn’t fed him properly).
He’s a rambunctious cat—likes to open drawers and cabinets and pull things out, leap from furniture to furniture, and likes very much to play with the cat toys featuring a stick and string with something on the end of the string. After a break- in period (for both of us) we get along quite well.
It’s impossible to be lonely with Sebastian around.
Bill Ingle, Thu 15 Jun, 00:57
Thanks for sharing the interesting NDE videos. I am sending the link to a dying brother-in-law whom we visited on another island the past few days. He has been given a month or so by his doctors. He is a hard-core nihilist and not open to reading anything that might help him with his despair. But maybe some you-tube videos will have more of an effect. Like Newton, I think the mediumship phenomena is more convincing, but it requires too many hours of study to really grasp it.
Michael Tymn, Mon 12 Jun, 02:02
What do we do with the presumably large number of hellish NDEs, no doubt massively underreported in the literature? Do they not put us back where we started, with the “good” old fashioned possibility of winding up, at least initially, in a very good place or a very bad one? I only wish that NDEs, in toto, provided the comfort level that Michael and his readers (including me) have found in the serious study of mediumship.
Newton Finn, Sun 11 Jun, 02:23
I don’t want to hog the video links but I really think everyone needs to watch this video. It is one of the best I have seen regarding recovery from childhood trauma and NDEs as part of that recovery.
Amos Oliver Doyle, Sat 10 Jun, 16:03
Amos Oliver Doyle, Sat 10 Jun, 02:23
Bruce Williams, Sat 10 Jun, 01:58
The sentence should have been My feeling is that religion uses the same marketing handbook as consumer products.
I was heading off to a funeral but I should have checked. At funerals, I become reflective and wonder if the achievements on this life are measured by the next life against a progression index.
Will Michael (when his time comes) be thanked for his dedication for his forum for great discussions? I would expect that would be the case.
Bruce Williams, Fri 9 Jun, 01:52
Thanks for the background. My feeling is that religion uses the same marketing handbook as religion.
The Cola wars is an example. Coca-Cola’s ‘It’s the Real Thing’ campaign was a way of consolidating the vast swathe of changes being made to the brand as it entered the 1970s. Coke’s then brand manager, Ira C Herbert, heralded it as a new direction that “responds to research which shows that young people seek the real, the original and the natural as an escape from phoniness.” https://www.creativereview.co.uk/its-the-real-thing-coca-cola/
The NC is a reinforcing statement of belief. To transform a church you need a better creed. Pepsi could have developed The unreal thing.
It was clever to label those who did not follow the NC as heretics. A good dividing line.
I enjoyed reading your comment. My problem with the Nicene Creed, however, goes deeper. I struggle with claims of Mary’s virginity, Christ’s Second Coming to bring the world to a close, and a Trinity that left out a Mother. All this made sense to Christians living in a prescientific culture where the universe was tiny and women were almost always considered as darkly inferior to men and no savior was likely to enter a womb. To many well educated, scientifically literate men and women today the Creed sounds like mythology rather than divine truth. It chases people away from the faith.
Stafford Betty, Thu 8 Jun, 16:54
Catholic Christianity needs transformation from bottom to top. I wrote my novel as a humble blueprint for how it could be done. In other words, I haven’t given up on the Church as most people with my education and theological background have. It has tremendous potential. But it needs a tremendous effort to remake itself, beginning with a reassessment of the female and her welcome to the priesthood.
I was very interested in your comment, in particular the saying of the Nicene Creed. Catholic and Church of England have a one sentence difference at the end of saying the NC. Embarrassing when you are from CoE and you continue after the Catholics have stopped. Different translations was the answer. From Wiki
The Nicene Creed was adopted to resolve the Arian controversy, whose leader, Arius, a clergyman of Alexandria, “objected to Alexander’s (the bishop of the time) apparent carelessness in blurring the distinction of nature between the Father and the Son by his emphasis on eternal generation”. Emperor Constantine called the Council at Nicaea to resolve the dispute in the church which resulted from the widespread adoption of Arius’ teachings, which threatened to destabilize the entire empire. Following the formulation of the Nicene Creed, Arius’ teachings were henceforth marked as heresy.
So the NC was a marketing tool to reinforce the customers in to a belief.
The reason I ask was that I had a problem with the NC having different translations. Finding someone else with a problem with the NC to me is very interesting.
I agree that churches with their coffee clubs provide support. I used to use this video Ted talk
Bruce Williams, Thu 8 Jun, 02:51
to show the importance of coffee clubs with church groups.
Michael, you wrote, “Even though I am often critical of mainstream religion at this blog, I lament the fact that churches are losing members everywhere as the younger generation abandons them.” I feel the same way. I too have been too one-sidedly critical of organized Christianity.
Countless studies have shown that churchgoing is a good antidote to loneliness and even leads to longer lives. One of the causes is no doubt the “coffee hour” following the Sunday service, where parishioners mingle and make friends, but another is the hope of life after death that religion preaches. Even a humdrum heaven is better than nothing. With that in mind I’ve tried to bring what we know—certainly no humdrum heaven!—into the church. My novel The Womanpriest, just released, is a blueprint for a more rational, evidence-based, and attractive religion, one that I’d feel completely comfortable joining. At present I attend an inclusive Episcopal church with a good organist and those sometimes great hymns, but am asked to recite the motherless Nicene Creed, which is hard for me to take. On the whole, though, the experience is not too bad. Good souls surround me.
Stafford Betty, Tue 6 Jun, 20:27
Amos, well stated. Your comment that “They can pretend to be someone they are not,” brought to mind something I saw on TV last night—an interview with actor Henry Winkler, who played “Fonzie” on “Happy Days” during the 1960s. He commented that during his heyday as Fonzie he received great respect from everyone. The police offered to give him rides from the airport, the trash pick-up people took special pride in his riding on their truck for a block, or something like that, etc., etc. Winkler seemed to remember that respect with some fondness without considering that all those people were giving respect to a fantasy character known as Fonzie, not to Henry Winkler, unless one considers that being a good pretender is a gift calling for much praise and respect. At the other extreme, I recall a popular athlete who refused to give autographs or otherwise accept public adoration because he felt he was nobody special, just someone who happened to be good at his sport. He wanted no special treatment and didn’t believe he was worthy of people wanting his autograph. Yet, because of his “unfriendly” attitude, he was considered arrogant by the media. I don’t recall the name of the athlete, just the circumstances. Somewhat of a paradox there, I think.
Michael Tymn, Tue 6 Jun, 00:28
For me and others, ‘destruction of habitat’ contributes greatly to loneliness in displacement from the worlds in which we were competent and doing okay-enough relationally, similar to the way it also harms other animal species.
Displacement in time is as bad or worse to many of us.
It seems to connect to Steely Dan’s line “The time of our times has come and gone; I fear we’ve been waiting too long”, from the song Midnight Cruiser about “I am another gentleman loser” who winds up on the streets of 1970s-era “Harlem or somewhere the same”. Decades ago it was already happening and sadly may always happen—
Donnalee, Mon 5 Jun, 22:01
I am a loner. I am alone most of the time. I think the reason why I never feel lonely is because I have found my real self. It is easy to do: At what age did you like yourself the best? If it is at some time in the past, take that to a psychotherapist, not the kind that dispenses drugs, but the kind that does Freudian/Jungian depth psychology. Develop your real self. We need government assistance for people that can’t afford it.
Bob Gebelein, Mon 5 Jun, 21:18
Michael. I always like it when you reveal more of yourself in these posts. This is a good one to provoke serious thought about where western society and cultures are going these days. A two-day conference or a round table discussion could be generated based on the issues you brought up in this post.
I know you are limited to a few words in these posts so I understand your focus on television and not the newer electronic devices. Actually, television in the beginning when there was only one television set in the house may have brought families together for a while, as my family did. all sitting in the living room watching Jackie Gleason and the “Honeymooners”. I remember when my family visited my uncle George who had the first TV set in the whole neighborhood. We visited uncle George to sit around a large console TV with a 12-inch screen to watch a snowy picture broadcast from St. Louis more than a hundred miles away.
But as electronics evolved, they became more of an opportunity for individual entertainment rather than group entertainment—-like going to the movies or a ball game on Saturday night with your friends or family. Many kids now have a TV and/or computer in their own room (when I was growing up kids shared one room in a two-bedroom bungalow. Now it seems each kid has to have their own room.) Children can zone-out in their own private world texting other kids, or commenting on social sites from their bedroom without really taking responsibility for what they write or really interacting with anyone in the real world. They can pretend to be someone they are not.
The park in the area in which I grew up was converted into a golf course years ago, used now only by those able to afford the fees. As a child I used the park for riding my bicycle, fishing for crawdads, wiener and marshmallow roasts with classmates at Halloween, sliding boards, teeter-totters and merry-go-grounds on which I played with other children and believe it or not there was a swimming (wading) pool with unchlorinated water and no lifeguard. (That was prior to the polio epidemic.) All of that is gone now and kids have no reason to go to that park so they stay home, play alone on the computer or iphone in their bedroom or basement.
I think there is a deeper thought to be considered here and that is, the interconnectedness of all humans, actually all living things, as spiritual beings. In my own case, I suspect that I draw energy, positive or negative, from the people around me. When I am alone, especially for long periods of time my personal energy wanes somewhat since it has no one else to draw energy from. This is difficult to explain but I really think we draw energy from each other more than we know.
Humans were not meant to live alone. For eons humans have lived as tribal animals and part of the problem today is that the sense of belonging to a tribe is being destroyed with the destruction of the family, the church, patriotism, music, art and personal identity. People don’t even know if they are male or female any more.
Visiting other cultures of other races, religions, life-styles is really wonderful—-seeing new things—-but integrating all of that diversity into one “tribe” or country in one big goulash just can not succeed. What do we really gain by trying to make all cultures the same. I think we will have lost way more that we have gained. Diversity is destroying the U.S.A. because we do not all look alike, think alike, speak the same language or have the same belief systems. There is some real value in having a world made up of many cultures but with each culture developing within its own boundaries. And we really don’t want diversity actually, we want people to think and act the same as we do. It is the pull of the tribe, genetically (maybe spiritually) determined from the beginning of the human race.
How this is all going to end is anyone’s guess. I suspect that it will not end well, that is, like other countries there is a cycle of growth and disintegration and regrowth and I think the U.S.A. is on the downward slide to chaos for a while until the people wallow around in it long enough and suffer enough to gather momentum to reconstruct some other country or countries re-establishing their tribes. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Mon 5 Jun, 19:47
Thanks to all for the comments so far. Concerning the mobile phones, I struggle a little to understand that one. While it might replace eye-to-eye contact in many cases, it would seemingly mitigate loneliness in other cases. If you are feeling lonely, call a friend. I can see both sides of that one, but I don’t know how to balance it. Of course, computers should be added to the TV as another escape from personal contact.
A little personal experience: When our next-door neighbors moved in about three years ago, my wife made some cookies and we both delivered them to the new neighbor, an elderly woman and her middle-aged daughter. The mother answered the door and was very friendly. We talked for about 15 minutes. The next morning, the plastic container which had contained the cookies was on our front porch with a note from the mother thanking us for the cookies but saying that they would appreciate it if we would respect their privacy in the future. Except from a distance, we have not seen the mother since and don’t even know what the daughter looks like.
When we delivered the cookies, I gave the mother an old business card of mine with name and phone number in case they needed help on anything. It occurred to me that the daughter may have put my name into an internet search and discovered that I am an “agent of Satan.” So it could be that the daughter is not unfriendly, just trying to avoid people who write about things that are discussed at this blog. I know that a few old friends of mine see me as a “religious nut” and are no longer so friendly as they once were. Such is life in the trenches.
Incidentally, I should mention that I took the two photos used to depict loneliness in this blog in 1949 in New York City’s Bowery. However, the homeless situation here extends far beyond what I witnessed then.
Michael Tymn, Mon 5 Jun, 19:45
You bet. Great post, again, Michael.
The pervasive delusion about our existence being limited to the materialist, body-only here and now is the root of most, if not all, of our suffering.
Dropping this delusion and embracing the truth that we are spiritual beings having a physical experience goes a long way toward healing us. In fact, it changes everything.
Elizabeth, Mon 5 Jun, 17:08
Michael, I enjoyed your piece because I thought I was a rare person feeling quite isolated and cut off from most people. I see myself also in the comments of Keith P and Dave Harrison. I walk every morning and evening and also regularly get ignored when I offer a friendly greeting. Because I’m not Jesus or the Delai Lama, I sometimes raise my voice and repeat, “GOOD MORNING!” or worse yet, “Good morning to you, too. Nice to see you!”
I don’t understand the roots of this. My guess is that there is nothing new under the sun and loneliness has been a theme since Adam, but at 59 I don’t have people knocking at my door, calling my cell (with the exception of scammers!), or greeting me on the streets.
I was going to say I would love to live in a world where people were open and honest and said what they were thinking, “I really like you. Would you like to come over and visit sometime and have dinner with me?” but then I realize the opposite is also likely, “Why the hell are you talking to me? Bother someone else!” So, I don’t have any easy answers, but I am so grateful for the handful (two or three actually) of people with whom I can totally be myself and they themselves.
Brian Anthony Kraemer, Mon 5 Jun, 16:28
Pete Marley, Mon 5 Jun, 16:10
Loved the post. Frankl couldn’t have put it more neatly, we are meaning creating creatures at our centre. Covid and the lockdown was a disaster for the uk. People have stopped eating out, going to the cinema, live gigs etc in the numbers they did.
My daughter now works from home and most weekends with her partner they never venture out. They have four monitors on the living room wall and food is delivered in.
The undesirable consequence of new technology is reducing social interaction! I don’t know what the answer is but social change is speeding up. Take the dog for a walk or the baby out in the buggy but have your phone in the other hand where you are glued to the screen.
Pete M Leicester England
As for myself, I still chose to engage with people when I am out and about the city (Bay Area)…also, after reading your books, as well as Stafford Betty’s wonderful novels & essays, I accept the proof that eternal life exists on many planes.
Andrew Minjiras, Mon 5 Jun, 15:37
I am reading a Seth book now and find it truthful about the reality of reincarnation and the afterlife. Had anyone read a lot of the Seth material? For me Seth’s essays are right on target. Great spiritual reading.
As always Michael another interesting blog post. I agree with what Keith says about people being cold towards you when out and about and have noticed this particularly over the last 10 years. I live in the UK also and we have had things like Brexit and the Scottish independence debate as well as the recent pandemic with the ‘anti-vaxxers’ and pro-vaxxers. Then there’s all the LGBT, Woke and immigration policies that have really expanded over the last few years. People are literally not sure how to communicate with each other anymore and in fear of offending others by saying or doing the wrong thing it’s a mess. Personally I feel there is an element of control to all this by the powers that be just like religion has been used to control populations through history. If you can split people down the middle they are usually so busy arguing their own beliefs and viewpoints that the main instigators get off scot free. The political parties of government being a prime example they appear to be separate but are all playing for the same team. One rips into the other party for their inadequate polices but it’s just to get the public riled up against each other it’s all a charade. Like Keith I live out in the countryside away from the cities which when I do go into the toxicity I feel from everything is off the scale and it is literally like walking among zombies or soulless automatons might be a better description. Being out in nature keeps you grounded and has great healing potential for both mind and body. I have a mobile phone that I bought back in the 90’s and hardly use it I will never use a smartphone, I don’t watch TV and only use the internet for researching and reading online books and have practically no interest in social media which I see as a major concern in creating more disharmony and unfulfillment. Also I think the virtual reality thing which although has potential uses in certain fields will play a huge part in causing more social reclusiveness and start to cut people off from their true spiritual awareness and roots. There is a certain irony as far as I can see here in the UK because we kind of have this ‘we’re all in this together’ meme thing when in fact we are all so far apart from each other and split into minority groups one against the other which all obviously leads to confusion and unrest.
Dave Harrison, Mon 5 Jun, 12:56
What a thoughtful and insightful piece, Michael. Thanks a lot. But I am surprised that you stopped at the impact of television in encouraging loneliness. If loneliness is a ‘public epidemic now’ as described in your piece, surely the new technology is at least if not more important to recognise as problematical than television was from the 1950s onward. So I am surprised you did not mention computers and mobile phone addiction as contributory factors in the current epidemic of loneliness; especially for youngster who have never known life without these things. Folk are increasingly losing the ability to chat in a friendly way to strangers, or feel easy with eye contact, preferring to avoid this by staring at their phones instead. When I take country walks, which is often, I regularly greet a walker coming in the opposition with ‘hello’, ‘good morning’ or ‘nice day!’ but I’m ignored or they look the other way so as not to have to acknowledge my existence. Country folk seem able to handle this situation but city folk maybe not. So I wonder if increasing urbanisation is also influencing the rise of loneliness. Mass transit systems, for example, just make people isolate themselves even more.
Keith P in England, Mon 5 Jun, 11:18
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